Hastings will see a gush of additional vehicle and human traffic this week as two large events — Kool-Aid Days and the American Legion Baseball Mid-South Regional Tournament — are sure to bring crowds of extra folks to town.
Hundreds of people are expected to come — and stay — in Hastings, including many who have not been here before.
The baseball tournament alone, which runs from Wednesday through Sunday, involves eight baseball teams and at least 160 players and coaches. Two of the teams are from Nebraska — Fremont and Hastings Five Points Bank. The other teams are from Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas.
Kool-Aid Days runs from Friday through Sunday.
Local officials have been working to prepare for the influx of visitors.
“The local shops and restaurants and everybody here in town know that it’s happening, and so they are preparing for the hundreds of extra people who will be here,” said Anjanette Bonham, executive director of the Adams County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The two events are a chance for Hastings to showcase its local attractions and unique offerings, as well as share its part in the history of a world-famous soft drink and showcase historic Duncan Field — where a young Yogi Berra once played — to a whole new set of baseball fans.
While Kool-Aid days is about celebrating the history of the soft drink and the baseball tournament is about competition and enjoying America’s favorite pastime, Bonham said the city is ready to capitalize on all the increased exposure.
She said hosting so many new visitors helps spread the word about Hastings to other communities and neighborhoods, potentially leading to return visits or additional new visitors in the future.
In addition, local businesses should benefit from this boost in traffic in Hastings.
Bonham said community leaders are working together to make sure the events run smoothly. She said the Convention and Visitors Bureau has helped to find lodging, restaurants and other entertainment options for visitors.
The city of Hastings’ Parks and Recreation Department has been working to make sure Duncan Field is ready, and the street department is preparing to close streets downtown for the parade Saturday and the opening of the World’s Largest Kool-Aid Stand afterward.
“There’s just a uniquely American thing where you can have a parade that celebrates something that was invented in your hometown,” said Mayor Corey Stutte.
Stutte said the city knew about the simultaneous events well in advance, and he is confident the city will be able to accommodate everyone.
“We’re lucky to have such great city staff who are willing to step up and get those sort of things done,” he said.
Bonham said she is confident Hastings can make a good impression, thanks to its Midwest hospitality and well-kept facilities.
“We’re a really unique city with a lot of small-town charm here in the Midwest. I think we have a lot to offer, and we’re very proud of our community,” Bonham said. “Of course, Duncan Field is absolutely beautiful. To showcase that in our city, we are really excited to have them here and share that with them.”
Bonham said the city won a bid to secure the baseball tournament at Duncan Field for both 2019 and 2020.
Visitors can find restaurants, attractions and lodging at visithastingsnebraska.com. They also can call or email the Convention and Visitors Bureau to get a visitors packet.